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Trump authorizes new sanctions against foreigners who meddle in U.S. elections

President Donald Trump talks about Hurricane Florence following a briefing in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington Tuesday Sept. 11 2018

Trump stunned the world during a summit with Vladimir Putin in July, seeming to take the word of the Russian president over his own intelligence agencies.

One source, a USA official, said the order would slap sanctions on any attempt to interfere in national elections.

US intelligence agencies concluded that entities backed by the Kremlin sought to boost Republican Trump's chances of winning the White House in the 2016 election against his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Coats listed Iran, North Korea and China as other countries that have the capability to launch attacks on elections.

"Today's announcement by the administration recognizes the threat, but does not go far enough to address it", said Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen in a joint statement, advocating legislation.

The order will allow the Director of National Intelligence to identify foreign meddlers and direct the Treasury Department to apply sanctions. With the current climate focused on Russian interference, Bolton was quick to clarify that the executive order is "not country-specific" and that Trump "cares deeply about it".

James Clapper, the former national intelligence director who appeared with Rogers and other former intelligence officials, said he personally believes that the Russian interference did influence the outcome of the 2016 election, but didn't elaborate. The order declares a national emergency, Bolton said, and requires DNI to make regular assessments of activities targeting the U.S. electoral process, reporting findings to the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security. "Unfortunately, President Trump demonstrated in Helsinki and elsewhere that he simply can not be counted upon to stand up to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin when it matters", said Warner, who is sponsoring the bill. The order, Bolton said, will "protect the United States from foreign interference in our elections and really our political process more broadly".

Lawmakers said the executive order, which would give the president decision-making power on imposing sanctions, was insufficient.

Trump has also said he accepts the strong consensus view of USA intelligence agencies that Russian Federation did interfere, including through propaganda and falsehoods spread on social media. Its findings would then be turned over to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Homeland Security, which would have another 45 days to determine what action to take.

Bolton said the order was necessary to ensure a formal process and authorization for sanctions.

Lawmakers and independent analysts say that federal and state action has already made USA voting systems more secure against foreign hackers.

"It's more than Russian Federation that we're monitoring here", Coats said.

US lawmakers have introduced various pieces of Russia-related legislation urging punishments for election meddling. Bolton noted that the scope of the order included not just attacks on election infrastructure but also "the distribution of propaganda" meant to impact the electoral process.

At the same time, outside experts have warned for more than a year that Russian efforts to manipulate US voters through misleading social media postings are likely to have grown more sophisticated and harder to detect.